As the UKs largest island the Isle of Wight is well known for sailing, sand and sunshine. It is less well known for its surf. In this guide to IOW surfing holidays we look at how to get there, when to visit and where to stay. We also pick out the best Isle of Wight surf spots for you to try.
The Isle of Wight has long been a popular holiday destination within England. It has some of the best weather including less rain and more sun than most of the country. It also has wide sandy beaches, beautiful rolling green hills and stunning sea cliffs.
Many people think the IOW is stuck in the past. And in some ways it is! The hustle and bustle of the mainland is a far cry from the country lanes, traditional pubs and non-chain cafes and restaurants on the island.
This creates a more relaxed vibe. It is clear tourism is big industry, and in some places it is in your face, but for the most part the IOW offers a slower pace of life. This of course fits in nicely with a surf crowd who are relaxed about everything – excluding glassy overhead barrels!
The Isle of Wight is just 22.5 miles (36 km) by 13.5 miles (22 km) across. This means it is small without being tiny, so there is plenty to explore on land but no surf break is ever too far away. And with around 57 miles (92 km) of mostly sandy coastline there are plenty of breaks to choose from.
Plus as a tourist destination IOW surfing holidays have all the facilities and infrastructure you could want. Accommodation ranges from luxury hotels, to quaint B&Bs, to low cost hostels and campsites. There are many pubs, restaurants, cafes and tourist attractions.
All Isle of Wight surfing holidays start with a ferry or hovercraft crossing. The Wightlink Car Ferry from Portsmouth to Fishbourne takes about 45 minutes – you can also travel from Yarmouth to Lymington. For a family of four with a car it costs from £59 to £150 or just £12.60 per foot passenger.
Wightlink’s flagship the Victoria of Wight, set sail in 2018. It uses an eco-friendly hybrid energy system and is the greenest vessel to serve the Isle of Wight. There are large comfortable passenger decks with plenty of room both inside and outdoors.
If you are not driving, Wightlink run a foot passenger ferry from Portsmouth to Ryde Pier that costs £14.90 per adult. It takes 22 minutes and is near the train station at each end. The Hovercraft runs from Southsea (where there is plenty of parking) into Ryde costing £25 and takes about 10 minutes.
As with the most of the UK, the biggest and most consistent surf is in the winter. November to March offers the best conditions at the most popular surf spot in Compton Bay.
However, at with any south coast surf in England you need to pick and choose your visits. Even in the summer, and particularly in the spring and autumn, you get days where the surf is firing. So arrange your visit to the best Isle of Wight surf spots for when conditions are good.
All the best Isle of Wight surf spots are on either the southwest or southeast coastlines. This is not surprising as they are the ones that face out into the English Channel and receive swell from the Atlantic. So it is certainly preferable to stay somewhere in the south of the island.
Compton and Freshwater both offer camping, cottages or B&Bs to stay near some of the top surf spots on the island. But if you want to stay in a town then Ventnor, Shanklin and Sandown are all good options with a range of accommodation styles and lots of pubs and restaurants.
As ever the ‘best’ is always subjective. What we include as the top spots in this guide to IOW surfing holidays may not be the best for you. It all depends on your ability and the conditions. But moving from west to east below are what we consider to be the best IOW surf spots:
Located just east of the Needles this is a righthand exposed reef and point break in a stunning location.
Winter has quite reliable surf but the summer is mostly flat. Ideal winds are from the north northwest and it is best around low tide with a swell from the southwest. There is no beach break so it is only suitable for experienced surfers. Watch out for the rocks.
Compton Bay is probably the best IOW surf spot for consistency and accessibility. It is a beautiful beach and swells range from two to five feet. Low to mid tides offer the best conditions, with southeast or northwest winds.
Anyone from beginners to experienced surfers can have fun here. There are surf schools offering lessons and gear hire. This spot covers surfing at Brooks and Grange which although further along are part of the same beach.
At the southern most point of the Isle of Wight where the southwest and southeast coasts meet you’ll find St Catherine’s lighthouse and the Niton surf break. There is reasonably consistent surf from autumn to spring, summer is mostly flat.
This exposed beach break works best in offshore winds from the northwest with a southwest swell. Mid tide it is at its best. Be careful of rips and rocks.
Ventnor is a quite exposed beach break that has inconsistent surf. Summer in particular tends to be flat. The best wind direction is from the north northwest.
Waves are more likely to be from local windswells than distant groundswells and the ideal wave angle is from the south southwest. The beach break provides left and right handers. Take care to avoid the rocks.
Shanklin (Hope Beach) is another exposed beach break that has unreliable waves. Winter is the best time of year with westerly winds and southwest swell. Waves break both left and right and are best around high tide. Be wary of rips – they make surfing here dangerous.
Surfing happens all along Sandown seafront from beneath the cliffs in Lake to near the pier and all the way to Yaverland to the north east. You can hire boards and take lessons but often the waves are small and only really suited to kids and beginners. But when surfs up it can be pretty good, but there are loads of activities in Sandown if not.
The most reliable break is at Dunroamin Beach in Lake. Don’t expect huge swells and massive pipelines but there are the occasional barrels. It’s a great place to learn the basics. Yaverland at the other end of the beach can also be good.
Around the other side of Culver Down you’ll find Whitecliff Bay. With westerly wind and waves from the southwest you can get a combo of wind and ground swell that provide left and right beach breaks. But it is very unreliable and mostly firing during winter. Best around low tide.
We hope you found this guide to IOW surfing holidays useful. If the best Isle of Wight surf spots are not firing then check out these top 25 IOW activities.